Relevant Fiction Reviews: Pastor’s Kids

Relevant Fiction Reviews

As a lifelong Catholic raised by lifelong Catholics, pastors’ families are something I have little familiarity with. Latin-rite Catholic priests with families are very few and far between. (But, yes, they do exist!) My inexperience did not diminish my enjoyment of these novels. Whether part of a pastor’s family or not, we all understand expectations, superficiality, and hypocrisy learned in myriad ways both inside of church and out.

It’s interesting to see how the themes and observations in these three books overlap despite three very different and distinct author voices.

My Hope Next DoorMy Hope Next Door by Tammy L. Gray

I highly recommended My Hope Next Door to anyone trying to reconcile a dark past with a bright future. Katie and Asher’s story of healing and hope is gradual and full of fits and starts. In other words, real.

Filled with many brief flashes of wisdom, My Hope Next Door is the kind of book you can turn to in times of near-despair and re-absorb its messages about redemption, friendship, and life-giving love.

Asher becomes an icon of Our Heavenly Father’s love and fidelity (albeit a hot-looking one) to Katie’s prodigal daughter. Though the gravity of their sins and the sordidness of their pasts contrast starkly, Asher must grapple with guilt, shame, and forgiveness in much the same ways as Katie, giving them each opportunities to extend love and support to the other.

It was refreshing to read a story in which the pastor and his wife are flawed and human yet not hypocrites, as is often portrayed. It may make their story arc dull were they major characters, but that’s not the case here.

As always, Tammy Gray handles sexual attraction honestly, integrating natural physical attraction with love and not glossing over the specter of temptation.

In sum, more than a lighthearted love story, it’s a touching romance filled with the promise of peace from the source of all hope.

Unfailing Love (Isle of Hope #1)Unfailing Love by Julie Lessman

I awaited Isle of Hope for months, eager to read Julie Lessman’s voice in a contemporary novel. She did not disappoint.

The characters have depth, are well-drawn, and inhabit their modern coastal Georgia isle so naturally they made me long for a beach vacation.

The dramatic plot turns in Isle of Hope call to mind a soap opera (as they often do in Julie Lessman’s historical novels), which is less a criticism and more a testament to the author’s savvy given the enduring popularity of soaps (and perhaps a nod to her well-known love of Gone With the Wind). The novel includes perhaps the best one-sentence chapter-ending cliffhanger I’ve ever read.

The faith element is organic to the story, but is more extensive than in most inspirational romances or women’s fiction as multiple characters’ arcs echo the themes of forgiveness, (re)conversion, and redemption. I highlighted several passages that struck a chord – something I typically don’t do. By showing the natural consequences of selfish actions, the narrative deftly demonstrates how no sin is truly private, and its repercussions affect many people besides the perpetrator.

Some beautiful, tender, heart-melting moments of grief and sorrow are interwoven with the painful longing and simmering passion you’d expect.

A little tightening to reduce thematic repetition and some of the analogies would only make this good novel even better. As it is, it’s an engaging story of love, forgiveness, healing, and rebirth that left me looking forward to the next book in the series.

The Truth About The The SkyThe Truth About The The Sky by Katharine Grubb

The Truth About The Sky is both a funny and and honest portrait of the contrast between authenticity and hypocrisy, control and surrender, and interior conversion versus exterior appearances.

Sometimes we have to be brought low so we can see what’s above. Sometimes we need to be stripped of our false sense of control so we can see who IS in control. Sometimes we need to be humbled so that we can gain empathy and show mercy.

All this wisdom comes packed in a humorous and ordinary story of a couple of pastor’s kids, party girl Kim and prankster Quentin and Quentin’s pregnant wife, supermom Suzanne. Katharine Grubb casts an eclectic assortment of minor characters, including mortician Jeffrey, musician Marty, and lawn guy Eddie, who’s endured his own fall from grace. There’s also a brief but funny appearance by a pygmy goat.

The version I read could use another pass by a sharp set of eyes to catch some errors and inconsistencies, which didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel.


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